MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Prior to this year, a major storyline ahead of their Week 3 game against the Denver Broncos would be the Miami Dolphins‘ plan to handle emerging pass rusher Nik Bonitto, whose win rate (29%) ranks sixth in football.
But these are not even your older brother’s Miami Dolphins offensive line. Even without Terron Armstead — who missed the Dolphins’ first two games but appears to be on track to make his 2023 debut on Sunday — Miami’s front five has been excellent.
The Dolphins’ O-line entering Sunday’s home opener is fourth in sack rate (1.3%) and knockdowns (2), sixth in hits allowed (3), and 12th in run block win rate.
Suddenly, a chronic weakness has become a strength, and no one is more thrilled than Tua Tagovailoa, the oft-injured QB who has barely been touched through two games.
Miami Dolphins’ 2-0 Start Spurred By O-Line Turnaround
“There’s been a lot of naysayers, and I know our guys in the O-line room hear what everyone is saying as well, so that’s a way that they’re able to shut the haters up, basically,” Tagovailoa said Wednesday.
“And to me, it’s nothing new,” he continued. “Those guys have been working their butts off this entire offseason — OTAs, training camp — they’ve been working their butts off. So this is nothing surprising to me, and I think that’s what it entails, is just the work ethic that they put in day-in, day-out with their coach Butch [Barry].”
Having a viable flex tackle like Kendall Lamm 💪 pic.twitter.com/48r62boj1a
— Kyle Crabbs (@GrindingTheTape) September 12, 2023
What’s most encouraging? The Dolphins have been doing it with much of the same personnel that allowed 35 sacks in 2022.
Austin Jackson, now healthy, has taken a big step forward. He and Robert Hunt have solidified Tua’s blindside.
At center, everything has been solid — once the snap gets off cleanly. Connor Williams has had real trouble getting Tagovailoa the ball, and those issues have cost the Dolphins at least two scoring opportunities.
“It’s an odd thing to be concerned about because it’s executed very well on so many occasions,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Monday. “So it’s like everything else where you have to try to reverse-engineer. ‘OK, how can we go this whole game with this happening?’
“… My assumption is that we’re seeking out and finding every piece of our game that we can improve upon, and that is the non-negotiable prerequisite,” he added.
“So anything that happens, whether it’s a weird distribution, a missed tackle, a blocked kick – all of these things you can either say – I think our mode of our whole team is to find those, look them straight in the eye and correct them because the only way to get better, to continually improve, is if you’re identifying and finding those things. That will always be the case if you’re trying to do something worthwhile.”
But in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor problem compared to the major problems this offensive line has faced for the better part of the past decade.
And doing it without Armstead at left tackle has been perhaps the most surprising part. The Dolphins’ offense fell apart last year when he wasn’t in the game. This year, they’ve been the best offense in football, thanks in no small part to the solid play of LT fill-in Kendall Lamm.
“He’s an ultimate pro,” Armstead said. “He’s a vet, battle tested, he’s strong, he’s smart. Consistency. That’s probably the biggest thing you look for in an offensive line play, and he gives you that. He’s consistent. He’s just a worker. Old school, old style. He’s an ultimate pro.”
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